As we think about our walk with Christ, it is easy to fall into two common traps.
- The Trap of seeing “Disciple” as a status
This dangerous trap is thinking that as a disciple of Christ that we have already arrived. It is true that when we trusted Christ for our salvation and confessed Him as our Lord, we passed from death to life. But that was the beginning of a journey as a disciple, not our arrival. Being a disciple is more than a label or checking a box on a survey or setting a status on our social media profile.
- The Trap of thinking we are “good enough”
No, this trap is not trusting our works for salvation; we understand we are not that But, we honestly are pretty content with our discipleship progress. We look around and see many who we have passed on the journey. We have set certain criteria in our minds of what being good enough includes, whether that be a level of church attendance or volunteering or consuming biblical media or avoiding specific egregious sins.
These two traps share the same root – the mistaken idea that discipleship is passive, already taken care of, and not needing our attention. God’s has called us to respond to Him. This takes consistent intentionality.
- View being a Disciple as an action
This pursuit of being like Christ is an all-consuming journey. Being a disciple is who we are by God’s grace and it should impact everything about how we live.
- Pursue what is “not yet”
The trap of seeing ourselves as good enough, is focused on where we are or what we have already done. Instead God invites us to focus on what He wants us to become.
The necessity of actively responding to Jesus’ invitation to walk with him is evident in his invitations to the first disciples. He told Andrew to “come and you’ll see” (Jn. 1:39). He later told Philip, “follow me” (Jn 1:43). Later He challenged his disciples to take up their cross daily and follow Him (Lk 9:23).
These are not passive commands. These are not even “wear the t-shirt” or carry your membership card instructions. These were challenges to pursue Him.
As we begin to see being a disciple as intentional, we start to see this attitude over and over again in Scripture. You might think that remaining and standing are about as unresponsive as action verbs get. But these two words in Scripture describe a very intentional pursuit of Christ.
One of the most important actions Jesus gave us is to remain in Him (John 15). As we think of the goal of producing much fruit, Jesus used the image of Him being the vine. Our task is to remain in Him (v.5) and His love (v. 9). But remaining isn’t just keeping a disciple status on our Facebook account. Jesus explains that remaining in His love means keeping His commands.
That is not an easy task! His commands are many and are not our natural response. Yet he has shared these with us as His friends (v. 15). This quest to always be obedient and always be remaining in Him is motivated by our love for Him. Tools like the Discipleship Pathway Assessment remind us of the biblical signposts in which we should be growing and give us a framework for thinking about the many commands in Scripture.
Paul uses similar language as he wrote to believers in different churches. He repeated tells them to stand firm. In the context of Paul pursuing as his goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call (Php 3:14), he immediately tells us, “in this manner stand firm in the Lord” (Php 4:1).
Paul closes his first letter to the Corinthians with the action-filled command to “Be alert, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong. Do everything in love” (1 Cor 16:13-14).
Paul also told us to do all we can to stand by putting on the armor of God (Eph 6:13) and to stand firm to the biblical teaching we have heard (2 Thes 2:15).
Finally, intentional discipleship is not to be done alone. Paul exhorted the church in Philippi to “live your life worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then… I will hear about you that you are standing firm in one spirit, in one accord, contending together for the faith of the gospel…. (Php 1:27)
It is amazing how proactive and action-filled these biblical descriptions of remaining and standing firm are!
These actions are only the beginning. We haven’t even looked at actions in the fruit of the Spirit, the beatitudes, seeking, asking, telling, and praising that are found in a disciple. As we become intentional about following Jesus daily, we will need to lean on His grace and strength to do so.